News Veteran Retired No More

News Veteran Retired No More
(Sonny Albarado)

Sonny Albarado, the former Arkansas Democrat-Gazette projects editor and half-century journalism practitioner, had a good reason to come out of retirement.

For one thing, he was never fully retired anyway, doing consulting work and freelance editing since taking leave of the Little Rock newspaper in January 2020. Now he has a late-career mission.

Albarado, 71, hired on as editor in chief of a new Arkansas outlet of States Newsroom, a network of nonprofit web outlets focusing on statehouse news around the nation.

Albarado told Whispers on Thursday that his yet-unnamed site will be online by September at the latest, and his official start date is June 1. “I posted on social media about it because it was already leaking out,” he said.

First priorities will be to hire three reporters to oversee, and to find office space in downtown Little Rock, he said. States Newsroom has launched five outlets over the past year and recently announced the expansion in Arkansas and four other states, Indiana, Kentucky, South Carolina and South Dakota.

“States Newsroom covers state government and state politics wherever it has an outlet,” Albarado said. “It focuses on the capitol and the legislature, the executive branch and some aspects of the court system. Basically the goal is to give people a source of information on how their government works and how it affects them. It’s nonprofit, of course, and online only.

It started, as it says on its website, because of the sharp decline in capitol reporters in the states” as traditional news jobs have declined.

Financed at the start by the Wyss Foundation, supported by Swiss billionaire Hansjörg Wyss, States Newsroom launched in 2019 as an offshoot of NC Policy Watch.

That progressive organization in North Carolina was founded by Chris Fitzsimon, States Newsroom’s director and publisher.

One lure for Albarado had to be the $90,000-a-year base salary, and he conceded that his experience earned him “a little more than that.”

But the primary pull was to run his own news shop, self-built from the ground up.

“A friend who’s from Little Rock and a professor in Texas sent me the job description and asked if I knew anybody who might be interested. I looked at it and I said, ‘Well, you know, I’ve always wanted to run my own operation and build one from the ground up.

“This may be my last opportunity to do it.’”